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Sunday, July 27, 2008
By Steven L. Taylor

Said an American politician, speaking to an international audience:

“I speak today as both a citizen of the United States and of the world. I come with the heartfelt wishes of my people for peace, bearing honest proposals and looking for genuine progress.”

I mean can you imagine? Didn’t this politician know that he was an American? What kind of internationalist claptrap was he peddling?

Thankfully there are a number of folks issuing correctives to such odd ways of thinking.

As Victor Davis Hanson noted

I would not speak to anyone as “a fellow citizen of the world,” but only as an ordinary American who wishes to do his best for the world, but with a much-appreciated American identity, and rather less with a commonality indistinguishable from those poor souls trapped in the Sudan, North Korea, Cuba, or Iran. Take away all particular national identity and we are empty shells mouthing mere platitudes, who believe in little and commit to even less.

And James Lileks:

Novel sentiments aside, “World citizen” is used as a badge of empathy that carries no responsibilities. The more it’s used, though, the more it dilutes actual national citizenship, which naturally takes second place to World Citizenship…To say you’re a citizen of the world and a citizen of America places the latter in the primary slot, no?

Or as J.D. Longstreet of the Conservative Voice said this week:

I have a lot of difficulty relating to anyone who claims citizenship in the world. Frankly, that person is frightening. Saying one is a citizen of the world negates one’s actual citizenship as’ well, a native of the country within which he/she was born and, to which, he/she owes allegiance. Saying you are a citizen of the world is too’well’ vague.

I mean really what was Ronald Reagan thinking?!?

The horror of the phrase is just about too much for me to bear.

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12 Responses to “On Being a Citizen of the World”

  1. Max Lybbert Says:

    There is a lot to criticize Obama’s speech for (well, not the speech, but the fact that he chairs a Senate subcommittee responsible for most of the topics he says need action, but he’s called exactly one committee meeting in all the time he’s been in charge: http://beldar.blogs.com/beldarblog/2008/07/questions-about.html ).

    “World citizenship” is an empty phrase, but it’s not the phrase people should be attacking Obama over. There are a lot better places to attack.

  2. Richard Scott Nokes Says:

    Read George Orwell’s “Politics and the English Language,” and you’ll see why one should object to the phrase, whether uttered by Obama, Reagan, or Diogenes. God forbid it start showing up in freshman comp papers.

    Of course, the immediate objection to the phrase is that it pretends that Obama isn’t really there campaigning, a disingenuousness that you rightly critized below in “On Obama Abroad.”

  3. MSS Says:

    “The more [the phrase, "world citizenship" is] used, though, the more it dilutes actual national citizenship” (James Lileks).

    May it be so!

  4. mbailey Says:

    obviously it’s a silly phrase taken from one angle, and of course it’s not to be taken literally. but as a way of succinctly recognizing that one’s obligations, both moral and political, are not exhausted by one’s national identity, it’s a nice shorthand.

  5. Dr. Steven Taylor Says:

    I’m with mbailey on the phrase itself.

    In regards to the politics of it all, I just find it amazing that it has created the uproar amongst many on the rightward side of thing.

  6. Max Lybbert Says:

    It’s created an uproar because there’s a general belief that “international [fill in the blank]” is shorthand for “more French-like.” Such as the use of international law in US court opinions and Kerry’s perceived international credentials (especially with regards to the “global test”).

    With Obama, you have a man running for President of the US going to Europe and making statements about global citizenship, which many people are taking as sucking up to the French or as a coded reference to Kerry’s global test. Either way, it’s about as Presidential as Carter telling Americans to cut energy consumption as a way of combating OPEC.

  7. Captain D Says:

    We have to remember three things when looking at this statement. Actually this probably works on anything Obama or McCain say on record between now and November, but:

    1) It was made in the context of a presidential campaign;

    2) It panders to a specific audience;

    3) Other than getting votes for point 1 from people in point 2, it means absolutely nothing.

  8. Max Lybbert Says:

    Good point, Captain D, although a statement that costs votes (say, from rednecks busy clinging to their guns and religion) definitely does mean something in a campaign.

  9. Captain D Says:

    ???!!!

    Rednecks clinging to guns and religion? How did we get there?

    Certainly you are not saying that people who are religious and own guns are rednecks, although that is how your statement came out of your mouth, and you might want to re-phrase it.

    Since I enjoy my right to practice my religion and my right to own a gun (both privileges being clearly enumerated in the constitution) I’m not going to infer that you are calling me a redneck; to this I would take offense. This juvenile type of name-calling is what I hate about the way so many people think right now: no respect for the beliefs and opinions of others, be they different from one’s own, and a willingness to condescend and belittle.

    Why can’t we talk politics without calling people names? Your post sounded like something that would have come from the pen of one of my wife’s 7th graders.

    If we’re going to identify a group as “rednecks” and use belittling language against them – why stop there? Why not use that kind of hateful and condescending language toward people who are black, or gay, or female?

    Your lack of respect for others disgusts me.

  10. Max Lybbert Says:

    Referring to working-class voters in old industrial towns decimated by job losses, [Obama] said: “They get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.” ( http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/apr/14/barackobama.uselections2008 )

    I guess he didn’t say “rednecks.” Anyhow, the point was that some statements can turn off a large number of voters, even when those same statements bring in cash from other voters.

  11. Captain D Says:

    I apologize. I wrongly attributed the redneck statement to you; I didn’t realize you were paraphrasing Sen. Obama, as I must confess I didn’t read the entire article that the post was based on.

    My bad.

    Really – I think Obama is wrong to generalize like that, about people clinging to religion or guns as some sort of “blankie”. It is condescending and shows the same kind of lack of respect for the opinions and beliefs of others that I was critical of in my earlier post.

    Many people who practice religion and own guns are highly educated, and their reasons for embracing these things are quite diverse. I own a few guns mainly because, as a former infantry and special forces officer, it is hard for me to picture not having access to one in the event that I need it; to me it is a safety measure no different from locking your doors and windows or having a home security system (both of which I also use as part of my home protection plan). I also enjoy shooting them on ranges and participate in competition shooting a couple of times a year; and I wouldn’t have enough room here to enumerate my reasons for embracing Christianity.

    In any case, both are rights granted me under the Constitution, in the first and second ammendments. That freedom of religion and the right to bear arms were the first two items in the Bill of Rights, I think, says something about how valuable these things are, and to the diversity of reasons people might embrace them.

    In any case – it doesn’t really matter for him to make those kinds of statements, because people who feel strongly about gun ownership are not going to vote for him anyway, and neither are Evangelical Christians (whom I am assuming he was aiming at with his statement) – at least not in large enough numbers to matter. As voting blocs, the second ammendment crowd and the evangelicals will vote Republican, period.

  12. Max Lybbert Says:

    The “clingy” statement was a pretty funny campaign gaffe when it happened. For somebody considered an oratory genius, Obama (1) doesn’t have too many memorable quotes (other than “he is not the (Bill Ayers, Jeremiah Wright, Tony Rezko, Michael Pfleger, etc.) that I knew”), and (2) puts his foot in his mouth quite often.

    I think hte best part about the “clingy” statement is that when the Supreme Court ruled in Heller, Obama nearly tripped over himself saying that he’s always believed the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right. Even though he also supports gun control laws in Chicago. It seems that he wants the NRA vote along with the gun control vote.

    So, back to the point: any politician makes statements to get money, votes and support. Sometimes those statements cost more than they bring in.


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